The U.S. Army has selected variants of the SIG Sauer P320 pistol to replace the venerable M9 pistol from Beretta. The Army will purchase the new 9mm striker-fired SIG handgun, designated the XM17, in both compact and full-size versions. The Army will purchase a minimum of 280,000 handguns, with options for another 212,000. This represents a huge contract, worth $580,000,000 through budget year 2027. According to American Rifleman: “The XM17 will likely lose the ‘X’ and be made by American workers in an American factory for American soldiers.”
In adopting the new SIG XM17, the U.S. Army has chosen its first new handgun in three decades. The lengthy Modular Handgun System (MHS) selection process took two years and $17 million, with twelve different candidates vying to be chosen as the Army’s new sidearm. SIG Sauer triumphed over other major pistol-makers (including Beretta, CZ, Glock, FNH, and S&W), by best fulfilling a complex set of requirements. According to Popular Mechanics: “The bureaucracy surrounding the M17 Modular Handgun System contract was oppressive. The Army’s Final Solicitation document, which spelled out the terms of the competition, was whopping 351 pages long. Senator John McCain of Arizona described the rules as ‘byzantine.’ Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates complained, ‘This is absurd — it’s a handgun for God’s sake’.”
The Army’s new XM17 is fully ambidextrous, with safety and slide release levers on both sides. Importantly, unlike Glock pistols, the new SIG XM17 can be taken down without pulling the trigger. In accordance with the XM17 design protocols, the new SIG features a front Picatinny rail for accessories, as well as interchangeable grip panels to fit various hand sizes. There will be threaded barrel options for use with a suppressor. The Army’s selection of the SIG Sauer XM17 was announced this past week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
Share the post "U.S. Army Adopts SIG XM17 (P320) Pistol to Replace Beretta M9"
A lot of claims are made about accuracy for AR-platform rifles, but much of that is just “sales talk”. But if you want a truly accurate black rifle, there are some key upgrades that, collectively, can transform a plain jane AR into a true tack-driver. Here’s an article by a genuine AR expert that will help you identify those components that really make a difference — the parts that can deliver true “match-grade” accuracy. Built right, a modern AR can deliver half-MOA accuracy with handloads. In this article, Robert Whitley explains how that’s done.
In our Shooters’ Forum, one member recently asked: “What makes an AR accurate? What parts on an AR can really affect accuracy — such as free-floating handguards, barrels, bolts, bolt carriers?” Robert Whitley posted a very comprehensive answer to this question, based on his experience building and testing dozens of AR-platform rifles. Robert runs AR-X Enterprises, which produces match-grade uppers for High Power competitors, tactical shooters, and varminters.
Building an Accurate AR — What is Most Important
by Robert Whitley
There are a lot of things that can be done to an AR to enhance consistent accuracy, and I use the words “consistent accuracy” because consistency is a part of it (i.e. plenty of guns will give a couple great 5-shot groups, but won’t do a very good 10- or 20-shot groups, and some guns will shoot great one day and not so good on others).
Here are 14 key things we think are important to accuracy.
1. Great Barrel: You’ll want a premium match-grade barrel, well-machined with a good crown and a match-type chambering, true to the bore and well cut. The extension threads must also be cut true to the bore, with everything true and in proper alignment.
2. Rigid Upper: A rigid, heavy-walled upper receiver aids accuracy. The typical AR upper receiver was made for a lightweight carry rifle and they stripped all the metal they could off it to make it light to carry (which is advantageous for the military). The net result are upper receivers that are so thin you can flex them with your bare hands. These flexible uppers are “strong enough” for general use, but they are not ideal for accuracy. Accuracy improves with a more rigid upper receiver.
3. True Receiver Face: We’ve found that truing the receiver face is valuable. Some may argue this point but it is always best to keep everything related to the barrel and the bore in complete alignment with the bore (i.e. barrel extension, bolt, upper receiver, carrier, etc.).
4. Barrel Extension: You should Loctite or glue the barrel extension into the upper receiver. This holds it in place all the way front to back in the upper receiver. Otherwise if there is any play (and there typically is) it just hangs on the face of the upper receiver completely dependent on the face of the upper receiver as the sole source of support for the barrel as opposed to being made more an integral part of the upper receiver by being glued-in.
5. Gas Block: You want a gas block that does not impose pointed stress on the barrel. Clamp-on types that grab all the way around the barrel are excellent. The blocks that are pinned on with tapered pins that wedge against the barrel or the slip on type of block with set screws that push up from underneath (or directly on the barrel) can deform the bore inside of the barrel and can wreck the accuracy of an otherwise great barrel.
6. Free-Float Handguard: A rigid, free-float handguard (and I emphasize the word rigid) really makes a difference. There are many types of free-float handguards and a free-float handguard is, in and of itself, a huge improvement over a non-free-float set up, but best is a rigid set-up. Some of the ones on the market are small diameter, thin and/or flexible and if you are shooting off any type of rest, bipod, front bag, etc., a rigid fore-end is best since ARs want to jump, bounce and twist when you let a shot go, as the carrier starts to begin its cycle before the bullet exits the bore.
7. Barrel Contour: You want some meat on the barrel. Between the upper receiver and the gas block don’t go real thin with a barrel (we like 1″ diameter if it’s workable weight-wise). When you touch off a round and the bullet passes the gas port, the gas system immediately starts pressuring up with a gas impulse that provides vibrations and stress on the barrel, especially between the gas block back to the receiver. A heavier barrel here dampens that. Staying a little heavier with barrel contour through the gas block area and out to the muzzle is good for the same reasons. ARs have a lot going on when you touch off a round and the gas system pressures up and the carrier starts moving (all before the bullet exits the bore) so the more things are made heavier and rigid to counteract that the better — within reason (I’m not advocating a 12-lb barrel).
8. Gas Tube Routing Clearance: You want a gas tube that runs freely through the barrel nut, through the front of the upper receiver, and through the gas key in the carrier. Ensure the gas tube is not impinged by any of them, so that it does not load the carrier in a stressed orientation. You don’t want the gas tube bound up so that when the gas tube pressures up it immediately wants to transmit more force and impulse to the barrel than would normally occur. We sometimes spend a lot of time moving the gas block with gas tube on and off new build uppers and tweaking gas tubes to get proper clearance and alignment. Most gas tubes do need a little “tweaking” to get them right — factory tubes may work OK but they typically do not function optimally without hand-fitting.
9. Gas Port Tuning: You want to avoid over-porting the gas port. Being over-gassed makes the gas system pressure up earlier and more aggressively. This causes more impulse, and increases forces and vibration affecting the top end and the barrel. Tune the gas port to give the amount of pressure needed to function properly and adequately but no more.
10. Front/Back Bolt Play: If accuracy is the game, don’t leave a lot of front/back bolt play (keep it .003″ but no more than .005″). We’ve seen factory rifles run .012″ to .015″ play, which is OK if you need to leave room for dirt and grime in a military application. However, that amount of play is not ideal for a high-accuracy AR build. A lot of front/back bolt play allows rounds to be hammered into the chamber and actually re-formed in a non-consistent way, as they are loaded into the chamber.
11. Component Quality: Use good parts from a reputable source and be wary of “gun show specials”. All parts are NOT the same. Some are good, some are not so good, and some aftermarket parts are simply bad. Don’t be afraid to use mil-spec-type carriers; by and large they are excellent for an accuracy build. Also, remember that just because a carrier says “National Match” or something else on it does not necessarily mean it’s any better. Be wary of chrome-plated parts as the chrome plating can change the parts dimensionally and can also make it hard to do hand-fitting for fit and function.
12. Upper to Lower Fit: A good upper/lower fit is helpful. For quick and dirty fit enhancement, an Accu-Wedge in the rear helps a lot. The ultimate solution is to bed the upper to a specific lower so that the upper and lower, when together, are more like one integral unit. For the upper receivers we produce, we try to get the specs as close as we can, but still fit the various lowers in the market place.
13. Muzzle Attachments: Don’t screw up the muzzle (literally). Leave as much metal on the barrel at the muzzle as you can. People like to thread the muzzle for a flash hider, suppressor, muzzle brake, or some other attachment, but if you really want accuracy, leave as much metal as you can there. And, if you have something that screws on, set it up so that it can be put on and have it stay there without putting a lot of torque and stress on it right where the bullet exits the bore. If you are going to thread the end of the barrel, make it concentric with the bore and make sure what you screw on there is as well. For all muzzle attachments, also ensure that the holes through which the bullet passes through are dead true to the bore. Many aftermarket screw-on things are not so good that way. Anything that vents gas should vent symmetrically (i.e. if it vents left, it should vent equally right, and likewise, if it vents up, it should vent down equally). Uneven venting of gas can wreck accuracy.
14. Quality Ammunition: Ammo is a whole story by itself, but loads that are too hot typically shoot poorly in an AR-15. If you want accuracy out of an AR-15, avoid overly hot loads. Shown below are test groups shot with four (4) different uppers, all with moderate loads. These four uppers all pretty much had the same features and things done to them as explained in this article, and they all shot great.
Thomas Haugland, a Shooters’ Forum member from Norway, is a long-range target shooter and hunter. He has created an interesting video showing how to gauge wind velocities by watching trees, grass, and other natural vegetation. The video commentary is in English, but the units of wind speed (and distance) are metric. Haugland explains: “This is not a full tutorial, but rather a short heads-up to make you draw the lines between the dots yourself”. Here are some conversions that will help when watching the video:
.5 m/s = 1.1 mph | 1 m/s = 2.2 mph | 2 m/s = 4.5 mph
3 m/s = 6.7 mph | 4 m/s = 8.9 mph | 5 m/s =11.2 mph
At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Best Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, hardware, reloading components, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.
1. Natchez — Special 5 Reloading Press Kit, $199.99
This RCBS Kit has everything a new reloader needs: single-stage press, powder measure, scale, powder trickler, priming tool, cartridge tray, “rocket” chamfer tool, case lube and more. This is an excellent entry-level reloading kit, on sale for just $199.99 at Natchez Shooters Supplies. We like the relatively compact Special 5 press for most reloading duties. Eventually you may want to add an additional, large heavy press, but this will get the job done. For the combined package, with all the tools one needs to hand-load quality ammo — this is a stunningly good deal at $199.99.
2. Powder Valley — Reloder 16 Powder, 1-pound and 8-pound
Powder Valley now has Alliant Reloder 16 (RL16) in stock in both 1-lb ($23.95) and 8-lb ($178.95) containers. If you’re not familiar with this relatively new propellant, we can tell you that RL16 may be the best replacement yet for hard-to-find Hodgdon H4350. Burn rate is very similar to H4350, and RL16 is extremely temp-stable. Most importantly, our Forum members are reporting outstanding accuracy with Reloder 16. It is well suited for mid-sized cartridges such as 6XC, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .260 Remington. If you like H4350, we recommend you try a pound of Alliant’s impressive Reloder 16.
3. EuroOptic.com — Tikka T3 Liquidation Sale, Huge Discounts
Looking for a great price on an excellent hunting rifle? Here is the Tikka Deal of the Decade. EuroOptic.com has received nearly 3,500 Tikka T3 rifles, which will be sold at deep discounts as part of an inventory clearance program by Beretta, Tikka’s parent company. The Tikka T3 is a good, stout rifle with a smooth action, crisp trigger, and quality barrel. Accuracy is typically well under 1 MOA (for three shots). T3 barreled actions also are a good “core” for a tactical build. The strong T3 action handles detachable magazines, and fits a variety of third-party stocks.
If you shoot long range, you need a scope level. This Discovery scope level is fully CNC-machined to close tolerances for a good fit. It is available with three inner diameters to fit scopes with 1″, 30mm, or 34mm main tubes. The 1″ version is just $12.95 while the 30mm model is $13.95 and the large 34mm version is $15.95. You could easily pay $35.00 or more for a 30mm scope level. Purchasers have praised this product: 89% of verified buyers rated this five stars.
5. CDNN Sports — Savage 17 WSM B.MAG Sporter, $289.99
Our friend Eric, Editor of Varminter.com, says the 17 WSM is probably his favorite rimfire option for small varmints. The modern Winchester Super Magnum Rimfire (WSM) cartridge is accurate, and it flies faster and hits harder than the 17 HMR. Right now you can get a nice Savage B.MAG rifle chambered in 17 WSM for just $289.99 at CDNN Sports. This rimfire rifle boasts features typically reserved for centerfire rifles. In order to maximize acuracy, Savage offers a thread-in barrel headspacing system, rear-locking lugs, and cock-on-close bolt.
6. Midsouth — Complete Case Tumbling Kit, $73.70
This brass tumbling system contains everything you need to clean your cartridge brass: Vibratory Case Tumbler, Rotary Media Separator, 6 lbs. of Corn Cob Media, and 8 oz. of Brass Polish. Right now this whole system is on sale at Midsouth for just $73.70. The case tumbler, which holds 450 .223 Rem cases or 1000 9mm cases, has a three-year motor warranty. This is a good deal for the package. You could pay $65.00 for a good vibratory Tumbler by itself.
Need quality .22 LR rimfire ammo at an affordable price? Consider Norma. Most folks think Norma only produces centerfire ammo and cartridge brass. As a result, people haven’t been looking for Norma rimfire ammo. Their loss is your gain. Accurate, reliable Norma .22 LR ammunition is in-stock right now at leading online vendors. This is good quality ammo, made in Europe. Bullets.com has Norma Tac-22 ammo in stock at $5.25 per 50-rd box (SKU: BL7819). In addition, Bullets.com offers Norma Match-22 ammunition at $7.50 per 50-rd box (SKU: BL11887).
8. Midsouth — Lyman Bleacher Loading Blocks
Lyman’s new Bleacher Block stepped cartridge holders are great. Use the different levels for sorting brass. Or, migrate the brass from top to bottom as you proceed through case prep stages. Made of durable polymer, Bleacher Blocks are molded in three sizes. The smallest size (with 0.388″-diam holes) fits .223 Rem-size case heads. The middle size (with 0.485″-diam holes) fits .308 Win-size case heads. The biggest Bleacher Block has 0.565″-diameter recesses for magnum-size cases. All three cartridge block sizes hold fifty (50) rounds. Purchase any size for just $5.90 per Block at Midsouth.
Share the post "Bargain Finder 71: AccurateShooter’s Deals of the Week"
With all the blacktical rifles and tacticool camo gear on display at SHOT Show, it was nice to see some old style craftsmanship — hand-built rifles with colored case-hardened receivers, fine engraving, and beautiful wood. We found just that at the Shiloh Sharps booth. The heritage style of the Shiloh Sharps rifles harkens back to another era, when the West was still wild, and gifted smiths crafted rifles with pride, skill, and true artistry.
The cartridges shown in the photo (left to right above rifle) are: 45-110, 50-100, 45-90, and 40-70.
This video shows how Shiloh Sharps crafts its rifles, from “Foundry to Finish”:
Share the post "Shiloh Sharps at SHOT Show — Blast from the Past"
Here’s a very clever way to store firearms securely. All an intruder will see is an innocent-looking wall mirror. But behind that artifice is a gun cabinet that will hold a rifle or shotgun, a pistol and more. For added security, the firearms in the cabinet are clamped by a rapid biometric locking system that releases the guns only for authorized users.
The patent-pending NRA Home Defense Cabinet is a covert gun cabinet featuring a sliding mirrored front and proprietary biometric securing system. The Cabinet is offered in both dual-firearm and single-firearm configurations. Slide open the cabinet and you can see the guns, securely clamped in place. When an authorized user successfully engages the biometric system, your firearms are unlocked and ready for use. The discrete cabinet doesn’t communicate “guns inside” like a bedside handgun safe. Also, the simple-looking mirror offers nothing to attract the attention of intruders or children.
The interior of the NRA Home Defense Cabinet Features a proprietary biometric locking system.
The NRA Home Defense cabinet is offered in a one-gun version (rifle/shotgun) for $750.00, or a two-gun version for $995.00. There is also a manual lock two-gun version for $549.00. Since this product is recessed into a wall, you also have to figure on installation costs. But if you are building a new house, this is an interesting new security option worth considering.
Share the post "Hidden in Plain Sight — The Biometric Sliding Mirror Gun Cabinet"
The big news at Nightforce’s SHOT Show booth was a new First Focal Plane (FFP) ATACR with a five times zoom range. The new 7-35x56mm ATACR offers tactical and long range shooters the ability to go from a wide field of view at seven power, all the way up to very high 35X magnification. That makes this one scope that can truly “do it all” — from short-range moving targets to 1000 yards and beyond.
With a fat 34mm main tube, the 39.3 ounce 7-35x56mm ATACR offers 60 MOA of windage adjustment and a whopping 100 MOA of total elevation adjustment. The elevation turret includes a ZeroStop. Nightforce notes: “With parallax adjustment down to 10 meters and 100 MOA of elevation travel, precision is attainable from short range distances to … extreme long range[.] This riflescope offers an incredible field of view across the entire magnification range[.].”
The new 7-35X ATACR is offered with either 1/4 MOA or 0.1 Mil click values and three reticle choices: Mil-R F1, MOAR F1, TReMoR3 F1. The illuminated MIL-R and MOAR reticles are shown below. Note that the MOAR offers 80 MOA of hold-over below center.
Share the post "Nightforce 7-35x56mm ATACR FFP Scope"
Western Powders (which sells Accurate, Ramshot, and Norma powders) has published an article on case inspection and preparation. There are many tips in this article that can be useful to precision hand-loaders. For example, every time you open a new box of cartridge brass (particularly from domestic makers), you should inspect each case for flaws.
TIP ONE: Visual Inspection — Finding Flaws
Cases are mass-produced items and malformed ones are relatively common. Inspect each case carefully looking for obvious defects. A bench-mounted magnifying glass with light is a real help for the over-40 crowd. The main defects will be cracks in the neck or case body, crushed shoulders or deep creases in the neck. Next check the primer pocket. It is also fairly common to find flash holes that are damaged or, more rarely, not concentric to the primer pocket.
Imperfections like small dings in the case body, or necks that are not completely symmetrical do not have to be eliminated at this step. Damage of this sort is usually from loose packaging and usually has not seriously damaged the brass. [Running an expander mandrel in the neck] and fire-forming will iron out these largely cosmetic issues.
The Western Powder article also talks about primer pocket uniforming. We do NOT normally uniform the pockets for Lapua or RWS brass from the start. However, pocket uniforming can be beneficial with some other brands of brass, including Lake City, Remington, and Winchester. If you shoot milsurp brass, set time aside for pocket uniforming.
TIP TWO: Primer Pocket Uniforming
Like flash holes, primer pockets are mass-produced and prone to small dimensional changes. A uniforming tool is used to make the depth of each primer pocket consistent. In turn this allows similar firing pin strike depths on the primer which creates more consistent ignition characteristics.
A good uniforming tool should have a shoulder, or another positive stop, that sets the cutter’s depth. Its use is pretty straightforward. The cutter is inserted into the pocket and turned clockwise several times until the stop in flush with the case head and no more brass is removed from the juncture of the pocket’s base and sidewall. This a job best done by hand. You will feel when the cutting is finished by a change in how smoothly the cutter turns in the pocket. Very little material is actually removed; usually just enough to square the radius at the bottom of the pocket.
Here is AccurateShooter’s Forum Boss with the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR). The commercial success of this innovative firearm inspired other gun-makers to release their own “blacktical” bolt-guns.
It looks like 2017 will be the year of the metal-stocked, tactical-style bolt-action rifle. Inspired by the success of the Ruger Precision Rifle, other rifle-makers have built their own Blacktical Bolt-guns. These feature modular chassis systems with adjustable buttstocks. While optimized for PRS and tactical competition, these tough, versatile rifles can also be used for hunting. Popular chamberings are: 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Rem, and .308 Winchester. All the rifles showcased here retail for under $2000.00, so they can be campaigned in the new PRS Factory Class.
PRS Production Class Cost Limits
Production Division combined rifle and scope MSRP as listed on the company’s website shall not exceed $3,000 USD, the rifle shall not exceed $2,000 USD and the optic not exceed $2,000 USD. [Editor: For example, you could have a $2,000 rifle with a $1000.00 scope or vice-versa. The total system cannot exceed $3000. Rifle alone cannot exceed $2000.00 retail sale price.] Production Division rifles are not permitted to be altered or improved in any way from the original factory configuration.
Bergara B14 BMP Chassis Rifle
The Bergara B14 rifle features a modern, modular aluminum chassis. The buttstock assembly offers an adjustable comb and adjustable length of pull. Like Savages, the BMP employs a barrel nut so owners can quickly swap barrels. The new B14 features a good adjustable trigger. Current chamberings are 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester (both fed from AICS-type box mags). Our friends Ed and Steve (aka the 6.5 Guys) were impressed with the new Bergara: “Bergara has in-sourced chassis and triggers to produce very high-quality offerings at a very competitive price. Handling, shooting and cycling the bolt on the $1150 MSRP Hunting and Match Rifle would lead one to believe the price tag was a mistake (maybe the first digit should have been a 2). We felt the same when we got behind the $1,699 Bergara Match Precision Rifle.”
Howa HCR Modular Rifle
The new Howa HCR Chassis Rifle combines a Howa 1500 barreled action with a modern aluminum chassis and LUTH-AR MBA-3 stock. Length of pull is adjustable from 12.5″ to 16.75″. Comb height is also adjustable. Weight with a 24″ barrel is 10.2 pounds (before optics) so the Howa HCR is lighter that many of its competitors. The Howa’s MSRP is $1299.00, a good value in this category. These guns feature a smooth-running action plus excellent 2-stage HACT adjustable trigger. Available chamberings are: .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester. NOTE: If basic black’s not your color, this rifle is also offered with a rugged, Multicam CeraKote finish.
Tikka T3X TAC 1
We got a chance to handle the impressive new Tikka T3X TAC 1 at Media Day at the Range. The ergonomics are good and the rifle balances well. Bolt cycling is smooth and the T3X boasts an excellent, adjustable 2-stage trigger. The Tikka T3X has a nice folding stock, and the T3X accepts other AR-platform buttstock units and pistol grips. The T3X will be offered with choice of 16″, 20″, or 24″ barrels, all threaded at muzzle (factory muzzle brake is standard). There are three chamberings: 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, and .308 Winchester. MSRP is $1899.00, so the T3X is legal for PRS Production Class. We really liked the Tikka T3X, and so did GunsAmerica.com: “Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or .260 Remington, the barrel is a perfect balance of being thick enough to shoot seriously, while thin enough not to feel like a benchrest gun. It ships with three magazines, which is a bargain for anyone looking to shoot PRS. I see lots of guns at SHOT Show I want to test or review, but few I would write a check for in the booth. The Tikka T3 TAC A1 is an exception to that rule.”
Weatherby Vanguard Modular Chassis
Weatherby’s new Vanguard® Modular Chassis (VMC) rifle features a Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) aluminum stock, Luth AR MBA-1 buttstock, and 22″ heavy barrel. The Weatherby Vanguard action is fitted with an adjustable 2-stage trigger. Priced at $1519.00 MSRP, this rifle is offered in three chamberings: .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester.
Winchester Repeating Arms XPC
As reported in the NRA Blog: “The XPC Rifle from Winchester Repeating Arms is a full-house precision chassis rifle based on their proven XPR bolt action. The stock features a Cerakoted fully-machined alloy chassis frame paired with a Magpul PRS Gen III stock. A full-length Picatinny rail allows for mounting optics, and M-LOK and QD mounts grace the XPC for easy attachments. A Magpul MOE-K grip rounds out the furniture, and the rifle comes bundled with one 10-round Magpul AICS PMAG and one five-round MDT metal mag.” The barrel is threaded for muzzle brake or suppressors.
Share the post "Five Blacktical Bolt-Guns from SHOT Show"
With the Berger Southwest Nationals coming up soon (Feb. 6-12), we thought we would share some tips from a past Champion who really knows the Ben Avery range in Phoenix. In 2015, Bryan won the F-TR Mid-Range AND Long-Range National Championships hosted at Ben Avery. And at the 2014 Berger SW Nationals (SWN), Bryan took top honors among all sling shooters. If you only know Bryan Litz from his Applied Ballistics Books and DVDs, you may not realize that this guy is a great marksman (along with being an actual rocket scientist). This guy can shoot.
Given his impressive track record at Ben Avery, we asked Bryan if he had any advice for other long-range competitors. First Bryan provided three tips concerning Ballistics, his special area of expertise. Next Bryan offered three more general tips about long-range competition — how to analyze your shooting, how to choose your ‘wind strategy’, and how to avoid the most costly mistakes, i.e. how to avoid the “train-wrecks”.
Here is the sleek F-TR Rig Bryan Litz used to win the 2015 F-TR Mid-Range and Long-Range Championships at Ben Avery:
Litz Ballistics Tips
Ballistics TIP ONE. If you’re having trouble getting your ballistic software to match actual drops, you need to look at a number of possible reasons. Here are some common issues that can cause problems.
Click Values Are Not Exact. Scopes and iron sights don’t always produce accurate adjustments. In other words, if your ballistics program predicts 30 MOA of drop, and you dial 30 MOA but hit low, it might be that your sight actually only moved 28 MOA (for example). To see if your sight is adjusting accurately, shoot a tall target at 100 yards and measure group separation when dialing your sight.
Barometric vs. Station Pressure. This is a commonly misunderstood input to ballistics programs. You can avoid this pitfall by remembering the following: station pressure is the actual measured pressure at your location, and you don’t need to tell the program your altitude when using station pressure. Barometric pressure is corrected for sea level. If you’re using barometric pressure, you also have to input your altitude.
Muzzle Velocity. Chronographs are not always as accurate as shooters think they are — your true MV may be off by 10-20 fps (or more). If your drop is different than predicted at long range, it might be because your muzzle velocity input is wrong.
Mixing Up BC (G1 vs. G7). Knowledgeable long range shooters know that the G7 standard is a more representative standard for modern LR bullets. However, using G7 BCs isn’t just a matter of clicking the ‘G7′ option in the program. The numeric value of the BC is different for G1 and G7. For example, the G1 BC of the Berger 155.5 grain Fullbore bullet is .464 but the G7 BC is .237. If you were to enter .464 but click on G7, the results would be way off.
Ballistics TIP TWO. A properly installed level is absolutely essential for long range shooting. Without a good level reference, your long range wind zero will be off due to minor canting of the rifle from side to side. You can verify that your level is installed correctly on a 100-yard ‘tall target’. Draw a plumb line straight up the target and verify that your groups track straight up this line as you go up in elevation.
Ballistics TIP THREE. If your long range ballistic predictions aren’t tracking, always come back and verify your 100-yard zero. Sometimes a simple zero shift can be misconstrued as errors in long range ballistics predictions.
Litz Competition Shooting Tips
Competition TIP ONE. Improving your scores in long range competition is a constant process of self-assessment. After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. Veteran shooters will lose far fewer points to a smaller list of mistakes. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues. Sometimes the weak links that you need to work on aren’t your favorite thing to do, and success will take work in these areas as well.
Competition TIP TWO. Select your wind shooting strategy carefully. For beginners and veterans, most points are typically lost to wind. Successful shooters put a lot of thought into their approach to wind shooting. Sometimes it’s best to shoot fast and minimize the changes you’ll have to navigate. Other times it’s best to wait out a condition which may take several minutes. Develop a comfortable rest position so you have an easier time waiting when you should be waiting.
Competition TIP THREE. Actively avoid major train wrecks. Sounds obvious but it happens a lot. Select equipment that is reliable, get comfortable with it and have back-ups for important things. Don’t load on the verge of max pressure, don’t go to an important match with a barrel that’s near shot out, physically check tightness of all important screws prior to shooting each string. Observe what train wrecks you and others experience, and put measures in place to avoid them.
“Must-Watch” SWN Video has aerial view of Ben Avery plus highlights from Saturday
Photos by Steve Fiorenzo
Share the post "Six by Litz — Tips for Shooting Long-Range"
If you spend money on any gun-related print publication this spring, we recommend you pick up the Hodgdon 2017 Reloading Manual. Available for just $6.99 at Midsouth, the 2017 Reloading Guide contains new load data for Hodgdon’s latest powder offerings, including new CFE BLK rifle propellant. This guide also contains important load updates for 32 rifle and pistol cartridges. Along with over 5000 load recipes, the 2017 Hodgdon Reloading Guide features many informative “how-to” articles that can help you achieve the best results with your hand-loads.
70 Years of Hodgdon Powder
This year Hodgdon celebrates its 70th Anniversary. At SHOT Show 2017 we had a chance to talk with Chris Hodgdon. Chris was proud to note that his family-owned company is now marking its 70th year in business. The company has been very successful, but sometimes that means supply can’t catch up with demand. Our Forum members often ask about the availability of Hodgdon H4350 powder, which is extremely accurate and also temp-stable. Chris said: “Getting more H4350 to our customers is one of our top priorities. With the booming popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor and other similar cartridges, there is a lot of demand for that powder.”
We also discussed the continued popularity of Varget, which has become more readily available in recent months. You can find even find the Varget 8-lb jugs now at Midsouth. Chris said that Varget users may also want to try IMR 8208 XBR. Chris observed: “I think IMR 8208 XBR is one of the very best powders we make. It is accurate, temp-stable, and it meters very well because the kernels are very small. The guys who try 8208 have been very happy.”
We concur with Chris — we’ve used 8208 XBR in a .308 Win and it shot exceptionally well. It is definitely “match-ready” powder for cartridges that like a medium burn-rate powder, such as the .308 Winchester, 7mm-08, and 6mmBR Norma.
Share the post "New Hodgdon Reloading Guide Available"
Digital editions of the four issues of SHOT Daily, the magazine printed each day of the SHOT Show, are available free in convenient Web eZine formats. Three web issues are available right now, and the fourth issue will be released later today (Friday, 1/20/17). You’ll find many product features plus articles that can benefit shooting club directors and range managers. Definitely check out the Day One Issue’s extensive coverage of new-for-2017 firearms. SHOT Daily is produced for NSSF by Bonnier Corp., publishers of Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and many other magazines.
Highlights Day 1: New Savage MSR (AR type) rifles, New Firearm Roundup, Exhibitors.
Kirsten Joy Weiss has created a useful video about Dry-Fire practice. Dry-Fire is a method of training without a live round in the chamber. Dry-Firing is effective, Kirsten explains, because “it eliminates all the extra noise and messages that you get when you fire a live round. Without recoil, without the sound of a shot going off etc., all you hear is the click of the trigger. This allows you to focus on your sight picture and your trigger press.” This the lastest installment in Kirsten’s ‘How to Shoot Awesomely’ series. Kisten says: “I hope it helps you, and keep on aiming true!”
The Benefits of Dry-Fire Training
If you are not doing Dry-Fire practice yet, then it’s time to start. Dry-Fire training is essential to the sling disciplines, and very useful for F-Class. Dennis DeMille, a national Service Rifle Champion, told us that, for every minute he spent in actual competition, he would spend hours practicing without ammunition. While in the USMC, Dennis would practice in the barracks, working on his hold and dry-firing:
“The most important thing is to spend time off the range practicing. Most of what I learned as a High Power shooter I learned without ammunition — just spending time dry firing and doing holding exercises. Holding exercises will really identify the weak parts of your position. The primary purpose of dry firing is to get you used to shooting an empty rifle. If you can shoot a loaded rifle the same way you shoot an empty rifle then eventually you will become a High Master.”
Dry-Fire Training Can Benefit Benchrest Shooters
What about benchrest? Well, we’ve found that Dry-Fire sessions can even benefit benchresters — it can help reveal flaws in your trigger technique, or inconsistencies in the way you address the rifle from shot to shot. With the gun set up with your front rest and rear bag, if you see the scope’s cross-hairs wiggle a lot when you pull the trigger, you need to work on your technique. Also, dry-fire practice can help you learn to work the bolt more smoothly so you don’t disturb the gun on the bags.
Share the post "Shoot Better with No Ammo at All — Dry-Fire Training Tips"
At SHOT Show we visited the Sellier & Bellot pavilion. You may not have heard of this company, but it is one of Europe’s older ammunition manufacturers. The video below shows ammunition being made from start to finish, starting with raw materials. This is a fascinating video that is well worth watching. It shows some amazing machines in operation:
Based in in Vlašim, Czech Republic, Sellier & Bellot was founded in August 5, 1825 by a German businessman of French origins called Louis Sellier. His family were royalists who fled France during the French Revolution. Louis Sellier began manufacturing percussion caps for infantry firearms in a factory in Prague, Bohemia on the request of Francis I, the Emperor of Austria. Sellier was joined by his countryman Jean Maria Nicolaus Bellot.
At the S&B booth, we also saw an interesting CGI video that shows what happens inside a rifle chamber and barrel when a cartridge fires can’t be seen by the naked eye (unless you are a Super-Hero with X-Ray vision). But now, with the help of 3D-style computer animation, you can see every stage in the process of a rifle round being fired.
In this X-Ray-style 3D animation illustrates the primer igniting, the propellant burning, and the bullet moving through the barrel. The video then shows how the bullet spins as it flies along its trajectory. Finally, this animation shows the bullet impacting ballistic gelatin. Watch the bullet mushroom and deform as it creates a “wound channel” in the gelatin.
Watch Video – Cartridge Ignition Sequence Starts at 1:45 Time-Mark
Share the post "Watch Ammo Being Made in Revealing Video"
Can you list all the serious problems that excessive headspace can cause? For that matter, could you even explain what, exactly, is meant by the term “headspace”? If not, you should watch this instructional video from Brownells. This video defines the term “headspace”, explains why proper headspacing is critically important, and illustrates how headspace gauges work.
Headspace is a measurement from the bolt-face to a point in the chamber. This point of measurement will vary based on the type of cartridge. Improper headspace, either excessive or (conversely) under SAAMI specifications, can cause a variety of problems, many serious.
Problems Caused by Too Much Headspace
Excessive headspace issues can include: light primer strikes, failure to fire, bulged/blown cases, case separations, split shoulders, or unseated primers after firing. Case ruptures caused by excessive headspace can lead to catastrophic failures causing serious injury. That is why headspace is such an important measurement.
Problems Cause by Too Little Headspace
Insufficent (or excessively tight) headspace can prevent the firearm from going into battery, resulting in failure to fire or deformation of the cartridge case. Various feeding and functioning problems can be caused by cases with too little headspace, even if a round can be chambered (with effort).
Share the post "Headspace 101: What You Need to Know"
SHOT Show is a cornucopia of products, with everything gun-related under the sun on display. The SHOW features a vast array of items for hand-loaders. Here are some of the most notable reloading and ammunition products we found at SHOT Show, Wednesday, January 18th.
Alliant Reloder 16 — Great Powder — Accurate and Temp-Stable
If you like Hodgdon H4350, you should like Alliant’s Reloder 16 powder. First revealed at SHOT Show 2016, the impressive Reloder 16 is now widely available at vendors nationwide. This advanced-formulation powder is extremely temp stable. We confirmed that during hot weather testing sessions last summer. In addition, in mid-sized match cartridges such as the 6XC, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, and 6.5 Creedmoor this powder has shown impressive accuracy. No hype — our Forum guys who’ve used Reloder 16 have told us this stuff can deliver match-winning results. This is definitely a viable rival to H4350. We recommend you buy a pound and test it.
Reloder 16 is NOT just a slower version of Alliant’s double-based Reloder 15 (which words great in the 6mmBR and Dasher cartridges). Reloder 16 is a completely new formulation, produced in Sweden by Bofors for Alliant. Reloder 16 utilizes TZ technology, which resists the natural tendency to generate more pressure at higher temperatures and less pressure at lower temperatures. Based on the test results we’ve seen, if you are using H4350 or IMR 4451 currently, you should definitely give Reloder 16 a try. The powder also boasts excellent lot-to-lot consistency and contains a proprietary de-coppering additive.
Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor Brass
The 6.5 Creedmoor has been “all the rage” at SHOT Show 2017. This cartridge, a proven winner in PRS competition, is riding a huge wave of popularity right now. There are many great factory rifles now offered with this chambering. And now we have superb Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor brass. You read that right Lapua is now producing ultra-premium 6.5 Creedmoor brass that will “raise the bar” for this cartridge. Lapua’s new brass features a small primer pocket and small flash hole (just like Lapua’s superb .220 Russian, 6mmBR, and 6.5×47 Lapua brass). This small primer pocket design can deliver longer brass life, and (potentially) enhanced velocities. We predict serious 6.5 Creedmoor shooters will be switching to this brass as soon as it becomes available later this year. NOTE: The new Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor brass can also be easily necked down for the 6mm Creedmoor.
New RCBS ChargeMaster Lite
RCBS unveiled a new, more affordable electronic powder scale/dispenser system. Called the ChargeMaster Lite, this new-for-2017 unit has some features we really like. The touch screen is easy to use and the power tray cover slips off easily — no more hinges to fight. Most importantly the CM lite has a redesigned, fluted dispensing tube which delivers powder kernels is a smooth flow with no clumps. The RCBS Rep told us “No more McDonald’s straw required”. We tested the unit and it does seem like the newly-designed dispensing tube is better. In fact, this new design will be adapted to the next generation of larger ChargeMasters.
Here is the RCBS Press Release: “The new RCBS ChargeMaster Lite packs unparalleled powder-measuring accuracy in a compact package. The one-piece unit features an LCD touchscreen display that ensures accurate data input. The hopper holds nearly a pound of smokeless powder, and can dispense anywhere between 2 to 300 grains with a +/-0.1-grain accuracy. The ChargeMaster Lite is an effective, accurate powder-measuring tool. Featuring 120/240 switching power supply, the ChargeMaster Lite is EU/UK/AUS compliant, includes a cleaning brush and two calibration/check weights and has an MSRP of $299.99.”
22 Nosler Brass and Ammunition
Here’s a new higher-capacity cartridge designed for folks who want to step up from the .223 Remington in their AR-platform rifle. Nosler has created a new SAMMI-spec cartridge which is similar to a 6.8 SPC necked down to .224 caliber. Nosler says the .22 Nosler cartridge will deliver significantly more velocity* than a .223 Remington, when shooting the same weight/type of bullet. For varminters using AR-style rifles, that’s a significant performance gain. We hope to test the 22 Nosler this spring in the varmint fields. This little round should definitely out-perform the standard .223 Rem cartridge while still operating from a standard AR platform, using the same bolt carrier group but with different, 6.8 SPC magazines.
Nosler explains: “Retrofitting a standard AR-15 chambered in .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO to a 22 Nosler is simple. All that is required is a simple barrel swap to the new 22 Nosler chambering, run 6.8 Remington SPC magazines instead of 5.56 magazines and the swap out is complete. Approaching 22-250 velocities in a significantly smaller package, the 22 Nosler® yields nearly 25% more capacity than the 223 Rem/ 5.56 NATO making the round capable of pushing a 55gr Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet at 3,350 fps out of an AR-15 fitted with an 18″ barrel and a 77gr Custom Competition® bullet at 2,950 fps.”
*When Nosler’s listed 22 Nosler velocities for 55gr and 77gr bullets are compared with .223 Rem maximum loads from Hodgdon load manuals, it looks like the speed gains with the 22 Nosler are 250-300 FPS, or about ten percent.
Bring the Bling, Baby! This Desert Eagle Mark XIX features a highly polished Gold-Tone Titanium Tiger Stripe finish. Conspicuous Consumption, SHOT Show Style.
There were literally thousands of handguns on display at SHOT Show, most of which you could hold, cycle, and test the trigger pull. Among the hordes of handguns, we found some very eye-catching examples, such as the Gold-tone Titanium plated “Tiger Stripe” Desert Eagle above. Just what a Rap Star or Tin-Pot Dictator needs. Below are some other interesting handguns we saw at SHOT Show 2017
Ed Brown Signature Edition Engraved 1911
This Ed Brown Signature Edition Model 1911 boasts elaborate engraving over the entire slide and frame. The blueing is rich and deep (the photo does not do it justice). This is not an “entry-level” handgun, that’s for sure — the wholesale “dealer price” is a whopping $6,156.00. Expect to pay well over $7000.00 at retail. Beauty ain’t cheap.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center 9mm Revolver with Hogue Mods
This handsome S&W Performance Center 9mm revolver features a beautiful Cocobolo and Walnut grip along with a special speed lever for the cylinder release. That speed lever assists rapid reloading of the pistol with moon clips. This kind of revolver is used in action shooting matches, such as the Bianchi Cup.
Best of the Old West — A Slew of Schofields
At the Taylor & Company booth, there were hundreds of single action revolvers on display. Here is a brace of top-break Schofields. This design features a hinge at the front of the frame which allows rapid unloading. Based on the original S&W Model 3, the “Schofield” model was named after Major George W. Schofield, who modified the original Model 3 to better serve the needs of Cavalrymen. Smith & Wesson incorporated the Major’s mods into an 1875 design that now bears Major Schofield’s name. S&W Model 3 Schofield revolvers saw service in the Indian Wars, and they were popular with legendary lawmen and outlaws in the American West (including Jesse James).
9mm 1911 — Havoc Dan Wesson Elite with Angled Reflex Sight
We like 1911s, and we like the 9mm Luger cartridge for its affordability and low recoil. Put the two together and you have a very accurate, shootable package, with a superb trigger. This bad-ass 9mm 1911 is a Dan Wesson Elite Series Havoc. It caught our eye because it boasts a C-MORE SlideRide red dot Reflex Sight mounted at an angle on the left side of the slide. Clever design — that gives you the advantage of the Red Dot Sight, with a lower profile. The Havoc, which sells for $4,299.00, is also offered in .38 Super.
Taurus Spectrum — A Pastel Pistol Fashion Statement
Apparently small carry guns have become fashion items. Tauras displayed its new .380 ACP Spectrum pistol in a rainbow of frame/grip color combinations. Along with white frame and blue grip, there were gray/tan, gray/green, gray/red, and gray/blue versions. Taurus really does deliver a spectrum of colors…
Double Trouble — Two Super-Sized Revolvers
At the Smith & Wesson booth, one visitor showed off two mega-sized S&W Performance Center hunting revolvers. These jumbo S&W500™ wheelguns, chambered for the mighty 500 S&W Magnum cartridge, feature massive 10.5″ barrels plus muzzle brakes. Overall length is 18″. Size counts right?
Share the post "SHOT Show Pistol Parade — Bling Is the Thing"
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post explains how to uniform primer pockets and remove burrs in flash holes. These brass prep operations can help ensure greater consistency, shot after shot. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page each Wednesday for other, helpful “Handloading Hump-Day” tips.
Primer Pocket and Flash-Hole Conditioning
This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?”
As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “occasionally!” Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. That’s not to say we’re against it — rather, it reflects the very high volume of ammunition loaded, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes (of which, more later.)
As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56x45mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked in per their usual practice. Obviously, we could not uniform either FHs or PPs on this live-primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it. Regular readers have seen photos of some of the tiny 1000-yard test groups we’ve fired with weight-selected domestic brass which had neither Primer Pockets uniformed nor flash holes deburred.
Figure 1 shows a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. In Figure 2, the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish — evidence of the metal removed to uniform and square the primer pocket.
Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Unlike us, they will be using their cases many times, while the operations are only needed once. Also, most handloaders only process a relatively moderate amount of brass compared to our 20-thousand round lots. Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers form their flash holes so that no burrs are created.
Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of these makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer, and were startled to find that every case had a burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tool and went to work.
For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops. Pay attention to the instructions. Some flash hole deburring tools which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket, depend on uniform case length for best results.
Does It Really Make a Difference?
It can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures, particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass.
One could ascribe this to the old High Power Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps”. Another thought is to “leave no stone unturned” in the search for accuracy.
However, an extremely talented World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FH’s, deburr FH’s and clean primer pockets before each reloading; however, with the wisdom of decades’ experience, he also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”
Share the post "Primer Pocket and Flash Hole Uniforming Basics"
Here are new Rimfire Cross-Trainer Rifles from Kelbly’s. These feature Anschutz .22LR rimfire actions in full-size, competition stocks. This is a great offering for F-TR, prone, and long-range competitors looking to train with less expensive rimfire ammo. Kelbly’s will sell these as complete rifles with rimfire actions bedded in fiberglass stocks.
SHOT Show, held every year in Las Vegas, is the largest gun show in North America. Thousands of exhibitors showcase hosts of new products — rifles, pistols, shotguns, optics, stocks, reloading tools, bullets, brass, powders, hunting accessories and much more. This is the ultimate “candy store” for gun guys, with literally “miles of aisles” and countless products on display. Here are some of the more interesting items we saw during Day One of SHOT Show.
Howa HCR Chassis Rifle
All decked out in a Camo Cerakote finish, the new Howa HCR Chassis rifle was an eye-catcher. Designed for PRS-type competition, the HCR features a modular aluminum stock with a separate buttstock section with adjustable comb and adjustable length of pull. The HCR will be offered in four chamberings: .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. There will be standard and heavy barrel options with 20″, 22″, and 24″ lengths. The rear of the stock accepts AR-type furniture (for those guys who need to customize). This new rifle will be sold in Black or Multicam Cerakote finishes. A package will be offered with Nikko Stirling 4-16x50mm scope and EGW 20-MOA, one-piece base and rings.
New Viper PST Gen II Scopes from Vortex
The versatile Viper PST series can work for many disciplines — Target Shooting, 3-Gun, Hunting, or Precision Long Range. The new second generation PSTs offer many improvements, with four new models for 2017: 1-6x24mm, 2-10×32mm, 3-15×44mm, and 5-25×50mm: Vortex offers a wide magnification range with its 2017 line-up of Viper PSTs. These new scopes offer tall tactical turrets and side-focus parallax adjustment with integrated illumination. To ensure reliable return-to-zero, all new models feature the patented RZR Zero Stop from the Razor HD 5-20×50 riflescope. Reticles include Vortex’s new EBR-4 and EBR-2C with MOA or MRAD stadia to match your turrets. First Focal Plane reticles are available on select models.
Savage AR10-Type MSR in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win
Our friends Ed and Steve (aka the 6.5 Guys) visited the Savage booth to take a look at the new Savage MSR Long-Range model, an AR10-type modular semi-auto rifle with a Magpul PRS Gen3 buttstock. The 6.5 Guys report: “Savage’s new MSR 10 Long Range Rifle is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win. It appears to be a terrific option for those wanted to compete in the new PRS Gas Gun Series. It is built on a compact frame with a non-reciprocating side-charging handle that is particularly useful for left-handed shooters. The Blackhawk AR Blaze™ two-stage target trigger was light and crisp. It features an upgraded Savage barrel, with 5R rifling and a Melonite QPQ finish. Read more new practical/tactical product reports at www.65guys.com.
New Accurate No. 11FS Low-Flash Pistol Powder Western Powders showcased a new Accurate powder that delivers 90% less muzzle flash, while still offering good consistency and accuracy. Accurate No. 11FS (for Flash Suppressed) is designed for magnum pistols, and small rifle rounds such as the Hornet. The advanced flash-suppressing formula dramatically reduces muzzle flash in many large pistol cartridges. Notably, this Accurate 11FS was specifically designed to work with the .300 Blackout cartridge.
Enhanced Bluetooth Connectivity for Kestrel
At the Kestrel booth, we learned that Kestrel will be offering an enhanced LiNK Bluetooth low-energy enabled protocol that will allow wireless connections with a greater variety of devices. This will allow Kestrels to share data with Bushnell, Wilcox, and Vectronix Laser Rangefinders, Steiner LRF Binoculars and many other devices. This kind of connectivity allows Kestrel windmeters to be more versatile than ever.
Big Boomer Brass from Peterson Cartridge
For those who shoot the .408 or .375 Cheytac, sourcing top-quality brass has been a challenge in the past. That’s changed with the introduction of premium Cheytac brass from Peterson Cartridge Company. Along with the new Cheytac brass, Peterson produces quality casings for other large rifle cartridges including: .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, and 7mm Rem Magnum. Peterson’s brass offerings for smaller match cartridges include: 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, .308 Win Palma (Small Primer Pocket), and .308 Win Match.
Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.
Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?
Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.
Is your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.
He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.
Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.
After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!
So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.
Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:
However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.
Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.
This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.
Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.
As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?
Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.
Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!
Share the post "Got Vertical Flyers? An Ignition Issue Could Be the Culprit"